The International Day for Monuments and Sites-‘Heritage of Education’


18-April-2013

This year the theme is Heritage of Education a theme which Icomos hopes will bring greater awareness and appreciation of the contribution of educational establishments whether they are schools, colleges or universities, to our heritage.   The Heritage of Education underlines the impact of education as being both part of our “intangible” heritage (e.g. our knowledge, skills, savoir-faire etc…) as well as part of our ‘tangible’ heritage (e.g. buildings, sites, properties).  The following is part of the message of Icomos on the importance of the theme:

“Throughout history and in different geo-cultural contexts, education was practised in a wide range of places or buildings. Open spaces, agora or the protective shadow of a tree could be useful for the transmission of knowledge, but also specific institutional buildings such as schools, universities, academies, libraries, monasteries, etc. Many of those buildings, groups of buildings or sites are recognised as bearing not only social or institutional values but also historic or artistic ones, and have therefore become a significant part of our cultural heritage. The protection and conservation of the heritage of education not only implies preserving cultural assets but also, at the same time, celebrating education as one of the fundamental human tasks.

“Several heritage properties linked to education have reached international recognition and are inscribed on the Unesco World Heritage List: the sites of the Bauhaus (Germany), the University and historic precinct of Alcalá de Henares (Spain), the university campuses in Caracas (Venezuela) and Mexico City. At the same time, several historic towns and centres inscribed on the List house buildings and complexes related to education. In other cases, buildings, ensembles or places are protected at national or local levels. However, many cultural properties linked to education and bearing historic, artistic or social values do not yet enjoy proper protection and recognition. It becomes thus necessary to insist on the fate of schools and university campuses as these are two concrete forms of this heritage, often neglected as we focus our conservation interest on the education programmes instead of the buildings and places themselves.
 
“Icomos has selected “The Heritage of Education” as the theme for celebrating the 2013 International Day for Monuments and Sites on April 18, including under that title all kinds of heritage assets that, in the framework of the World’s cultural diversity, are related to education.”

Here in Seychelles the local Icomos branch, Icomos Seychelles, uses the occasion to call for more attention to the preservation or enhancement, whenever possible and practical, of the architectural heritage of our educational establishments, our schools or colleges.  Necessary changes, extensions, renovations and modifications have been made to the use or architectural lay-out of these establishments.  Some have retained certain features of the original buildings, others have been completely transformed.  Yet whatever changes have taken place such properties remain part of our heritage on both an individual and community or even an age-group level.  To say ‘this is where I went to school’ is a simple but meaningful statement of one’s heritage.

They may not all have been architecturally imposing buildings yet these educational properties were very much part of our historical and cultural landscape.  To safeguard at least an element, if not all, of that landscape is a matter of promoting cultural identity and our educational heritage just as we promote our culinary, artistic, architectural, maritime, religious, artisanal etc… heritage.

The World Heritage Day under its 2013 theme of the Heritage of Education is above all an opportunity to reflect on how best certain historical features of educational properties can be integrated into future reconstructions or modifications perhaps by merely saving a symbolic façade or a pillar or part of a granite wall.  It is an opportunity, as Icomos advocates, to consider the fact that educational infrastructures across the world and in different forms are part of our shared heritage.

The symbolic façade of the erstwhile Ste Thérèse primary school is still very much in evidence at what is now the La Rosière primary school

On a practical note Icomos Seychelles plans to integrate features of granite buildings, including schools and colleges, in a promotional exhibition of traditional architecture and buildings of heritage value at the Val des Près heritage village.  It is hoped that the exhibition of a revolving nature, will contribute towards the preservation and promotion of traditional architecture.  In partnering the Seychelles Heritage Foundation as well as the National Arts Council on the project Icomos Seychelles plans to bring a useful contribution of a non-government organisation into current efforts to safeguard as much as possible what is left of our built heritage.

Contributed by Icomos Seychelles

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